Racism and the next cardiovascular disease risk algorithm


“Algorithms…are only as good as the data which are put into them - if you put racist data in, you get racist outcomes”.

The inclusion of race, ethnicity or indigeneity in clinical algorithms to predict outcomes may lead to the incorrect assumption that health disparities are due inherently to race, and further, that race is representative of genetic difference. The ongoing use of race and ethnicity reflects a history of outdated ideology and systemic racism compounded by biased or incomplete data collection.  Many clinical algorithms that include race or ethnicity may inadvertently reinforce health inequities instead of addressing them.

As a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement, there have been a number of articles published in the recent months, primarily from the US, calling for systemic racism within healthcare to be addressed, and for researchers in particular to ensure that they are anti-racist when designing health interventions and clinical algorithms.

The next Australian Absolute CVD risk guidelines are currently being revised with input from the CVD implementation team. This presents an opportunity to ensure that these updated guidelines, and the associated CVD risk algorithm are appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In this seminar, we want to engage RSPH in a discussion around:

  • The way race, indigeneity, and ethnicity are approached in healthcare, and how these indicators are used in clinical algorithms
  • How accounting for social and cultural determinants of health and other non-biomedical risk factors could be a better way forward
  • Ways of ensuring a more inclusive and representative CVD risk algorithm for the Australian context


The CVD Implementation team aims to improve the prevention of chronic diseases for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The team works with organisations and governments across Australia to improve chronic disease prevention and policy, using a systems strengthening approach that emphasizes First Nation’s leadership, knowledge and expertise. The team includes CIs from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program, Epidemiology for Policy and Practice Group and ANU Unit of General Practice.